mean·​while | \ ˈmēn-ˌ(h)wī(-ə)l How to pronounce meanwhile (audio) \

Definition of meanwhile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the time before something happens or before a specified period ends : meantime in the meanwhile colleges and universities have become somewhere near one hundred times more complex— Dennis O'Brien



Definition of meanwhile (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : during the intervening time meanwhile, however, new projects are being undertaken this year— Jonathan Eberhart
2 : at the same time You can set the table, and meanwhile I'll start cooking dinner.

Meantime vs. Meanwhile


Meantime and meanwhile have both been used as nouns in prepositional phrases like "in the meantime/meanwhile" since their earliest use in the 1300s. Both have been used as adverbs, like in "meanwhile/meantime, down at the farm…," since the late 1500s. They've been interchangeable for pretty much all of their long histories. But that doesn't mean they don't each have their favorite territory.

Meantime is the one that's usually used as a noun—that is, as the object of the preposition in phrases like "in the meantime" and "for the meantime":

We're headed to the beach this afternoon. In the meantime, I'm going to the grocery store.

And meanwhile is the usual choice for the role of adverb:

The kids are excited about the beach. Meanwhile, someone has to think about dinner.

But you'll see and hear examples that are counter to these generalizations, like the following:

In the meanwhile, someone should find the beach towels.

The baby is napping. Meantime, the older kids are looking for beach toys.

"In the meanwhile" has been accused of being "unidiomatic" (i.e. of sounding weird), but it isn't so unidiomatic that native speakers instinctively avoid it. If you use it, there's no reason you should stop.

But if you want to use this pair in the ways they're most often used and need help remembering which goes where, you can think of this sentence:

In the time it takes to say "in the meantime," you could just as well say "meanwhile."

Examples of meanwhile in a Sentence

Adverb You can set the table. Meanwhile, I'll start making dinner. She spent four years studying for her law degree. Meanwhile, she continued to work at the bank. He can come back to work when he's feeling better, but meanwhile he should be resting as much as possible.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun How many people would have died of rabies in the meanwhile? Vaccines work wonders. Rebecca Coffey, Forbes, 9 Dec. 2021 In the meanwhile, while moving to electric vehicles will be necessary, companies, investors, and the public should remember that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and no immediate magic solution to a big and complex problem. Zenger News, Forbes, 11 Oct. 2021 The high school is asking families to voluntarily provide vaccination status for their students in the meanwhile. oregonlive, 16 Sep. 2021 In the meanwhile, Garcia is hoping to help establish a gay-straight alliance club at his alma mater, Wasco High, while continuing to try to stop his city’s brain drain, which nearly took him for good. Los Angeles Times, 29 June 2021 Canada has extended its travel ban for Indians now up till July 21, and will only allow Canadian citizens and residents to travel to the country in the meanwhile. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 23 June 2021 In the meanwhile, enjoy being alone, be glad that this is behind you, join a gym, keep busy, and enjoy your days., 11 June 2021 In the meanwhile, the drug continues offering hope to people like JoAnn Wooding, whose husband Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016, and was among the first group of patients to join the aducanumab trials. Alice Park, Time, 7 June 2021 In the meanwhile, even the search for an advisor can be an illuminating experience. Debra Pickett, Forbes, 13 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Wilkins, meanwhile, has turned into a team leader for the Thunderbirds. Tony Baranek,, 18 Jan. 2022 Republicans, meanwhile, have accused the companies of censorship for removing rule-breaking content, which the companies have denied. Washington Post, 18 Jan. 2022 New construction starts by property developers, meanwhile, dropped 11.4% in 2021, as China’s property developers faced a cash crunch. Jonathan Cheng, WSJ, 17 Jan. 2022 Prescott, meanwhile, did not hide his frustration toward the officiating crew. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, 17 Jan. 2022 Soaring inflation, meanwhile, means many Americans face higher fuel and energy bills, souring them on an economy that does have some bright spots as the pandemic grinds on. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 17 Jan. 2022 The second Gascon recall effort is meanwhile gaining steam, with Beverly Hills City Council unanimously voting earlier this month to support the effort. Fox News, 17 Jan. 2022 In about a decade, the stock lost most of its value; meanwhile, Barbier compensated himself with nearly thirty million dollars. Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2022 Giddey, meanwhile, has been a big reason for the Thunder’s recent offensive success and is averaging 11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists at the midway point of the season. Ashley Bastock, cleveland, 15 Jan. 2022

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'meanwhile.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of meanwhile


14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for meanwhile

Time Traveler

The first known use of meanwhile was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near meanwhile

mean well


mean white

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Statistics for meanwhile

Last Updated

20 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Meanwhile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for meanwhile



English Language Learners Definition of meanwhile

: at or during the same time : in the meantime


mean·​while | \ ˈmēn-ˌhwīl How to pronounce meanwhile (audio) , -ˌwīl \

Kids Definition of meanwhile

 (Entry 1 of 2)



Kids Definition of meanwhile (Entry 2 of 2)

2 : at the same time

More from Merriam-Webster on meanwhile

Nglish: Translation of meanwhile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of meanwhile for Arabic Speakers


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